Girls Track: Riverhead senior takes 2nd at league championship

Riverhead senior Ra'Shae Smith finished second in the shot put at the League III Championship Saturday. (Credit: Bill Landon)
Riverhead senior Ra’Shae Smith finished second in the shot put at the League III Championship Saturday. (Credit: Bill Landon)


As Ra’Shae Smith stepped into the circle for her final throw in the shot put, the Riverhead senior was feeling the pressure. She knew she had already locked up at least second place, but she still wanted to improve on her mark.

Standing in the back of the circle, she hunched over facing backward, then lifted up her left leg and swung her body around to push the shot put with her right arm. It’s the technique known as the glide.

The shot landed 36 feet away, the best mark of her six throws Saturday in the League III Championship at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.

“I wasn’t too worried about it, but that made it a lot better when I threw 36 feet,” Smith said of her final throw.

Smith finished second, the top finish for a Riverhead girl in the competition. Smith had her hands full going into the meet. Half Hollow Hills West junior Leeyan Redwood has been the top shot-putter in the county this season, with Smith second.

That stood up again this night, as Redwood threw 37-03 for first place.

Smith said she’s striving to be on that same level as Redwood.

“I know what she’s capable of, that’s why I was kind of nervous,” Smith said.

Smith is still a relative newcomer to the shot put. She started in 10th grade and last year served as an understudy or sorts to Riverhead’s top thrower, Madison Blom, who has since graduated. Smith came into the year hoping to throw in the 33 to 34 foot range. She recently blew past that mark, throwing 37-1 1/2 at The Armory in New York at the Molloy Stanner Games. It was good enough for fourth place.

“Now I’m aiming higher than 37,” she said.

Riverhead coach Justin Cobis said Smith has been consistently throwing in the 36-foot range now.

“She’s gaining the confidence and really the experience because she hasn’t been doing this very long,” he said.

Cobis said when it comes to track, Smith actually prefers the discus. In the indoor season, there’s no discus event.

Cobis said he was encouraged to see Smith step up on her final throw in the finals after two less than stellar throws.

“I told her, when the pressure’s on, you are performing,” he said.

When Smith started in the shot put, she used a simple power motion that involved limited movement before throwing. This year, to take the next step, she incorporated the glide motion, which has her move across the entire circle before throwing.

“One day I just tried the glide and I did it perfectly fine and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

For the spring season, she said she’s thinking of progressing to the spin technique, which is common in the discus.

As the movement and technicality of a throw increases, the potential for a greater throw does as well. As Cobis put it, it’s high risk, high reward.

“I think she can handle it,” he said. “She’s doing great with the glide. Come spring time, if we decide to stay with the glide, she’ll do great.”

In other events Saturday, seventh-grader Megan Kielbasa was fourth in the 3,000. She ran a personal best time of 11 minutes 22.74 seconds for all-league honors.

Cobis said Kielbasa even had a lacrosse practice earlier in the day before coming to the meet.

“She’s just a natural competitor,” he said.

In the high jump, senior Ashley-Ann Courts tied for sixth place with a top mark of 4-8.

Riverhead’s 4 x 400 relay team finished fifth and the 4 x 800 relay team was sixth.

The League V Championship, featuring Shoreham-Wading River and McGann-Mercy, was canceled Saturday. It had originally been scheduled for 9 a.m., but inclement weather in the morning forced it to be canceled. The  makeup date was not yet determined as of Saturday night.

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